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Pelham sludge berm halted

According to a report in the St. Catherines Standard, paper recycler Abitibi Consolidated has reached an agreement ...


According to a report in the St. Catherines Standard, paper recycler Abitibi Consolidated has reached an agreement with municipal politicians on the future of a controversial berm made from papermill sludge — a byproduct of paper recycling — at 325 Church St. in Pelham, Ontario, which neighbours fear is a health risk.

The exact details of the agreement won’t be released until finalized, but in general, Abitibi has agreed to implement recommendations made by a provincial expert panel on berm building, says company spokesman Marc MacDonald.

“We’re going to be proactive, that’s the key,” MacDonald said. “We want to be transparent, to better communicate with the community in the future.”

The agreement will likely include:

Ongoing water-quality monitoring at the Pelham berm;

Hydrogeological assessments conducted beforehand at any future berm sites; and

Community consultation before dumping begins at new sites.

The berm currently weighs in at 36,000 tonnes and is finished. That leaves the company, which produces 400 tonnes of paper fibre sludge a day, searching for new sites to off-load the waste material. Abitibi hopes to find a new way of dealing with sludge — possibly incineration — within two years. In the meantime, it still considers berms made from paper fibre biosolids “an environmentally safe option.”

Ministry of the Environment tests this summer showed berm runoff is dangerous to the environment. The province has spent more than a year reviewing the recommendations of the expert panel on Sound-Sorb, the commercial name for waste paper sludge mixed with sand. The government has yet to implement any of the recommendations, but has instead signed an agreement with another paper recycler, Atlantic Packaging, to follow some of the report suggestions.

Abitibi is also poised to sign a similar agreement with the government on the use of paper waste in a week or two. The agreement won’t include the requirement for a provincial certificate of approval, however.


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